Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SHHH! Aug 3 with Laura Caviani, guest song leader

The August edition of Sing Harmony, Hungry Hearts!
(SHHH!) in the Library is

Thursday, August 3, 2017, 7-8:30 p.m.
with guest song leader Laura Caviani!
Laura Caviani, guest song leader for August 3, 2017
East Side Freedom Library
1105 Greenbrier St., St. Paul
Thank you, East Side Freedom Library!

A free-will offering will be collected for the guest song leader and the space. 
Suggested amount is $5-10 ~ though don't let that amount keep you away.
Points of Light Music:  Tell us about yourself. 
Laura Caviani: I play piano, compose, and teach music at Carleton College. I feel fortunate to have made my way through life making music, in some way shape or form, for a living.
For me, my favorite part of music is improvising. I studied improvisation and composition at both Lawrence U. in WI and at the U. of MI in Ann Arbor.
Currently, I live in the Twin Cities, and love it. Minnesota is my home state. I grew up learning songs at home, at church, at school, and around many campfires, namely Camp Koinonia (Hennepin Ave. United Methodist Church) and Camp Olson, a YMCA camp near Longville. I'm recently loving re-learning all of these songs again, and am looking forward to passing them along to interested folks. I'm also looking forward to learning more songs by ear, myself, and to help others learn how to improvise, compose, and get to know their voices.

PLM: You're mostly known as a jazz pianist.  What is drawing you to the voice and group singing?
About 7 years ago, I started composing for choirs to challenge myself in a new way. I've always enjoyed singing harmony for people, but never really thought of myself as a featured vocalist. I've sung back ups for various vocalists over the years, and of course sing while teaching and composing.
Then, last summer I attended a workshop at the Omega Institute in up state New York called "Circle Songs", a beautiful gathering of people from all over the world, inspired by the leadership of Bobby McFerrin, and it pretty much blew me away.  I would highly recommend attending this workshop to anyone who is interested in 
exploring the connection between spirituality, singing, and the creative process. Making music can sometimes be a deeply profound experience for me, but there is nothing like singing in a choir. When you combine that with the immediacy of free improvisation, it's almost a visceral experience, a palpable feeling. Some folks say that singing is like opening the window to your soul. That imagery seems pretty close what it feels like to me.
PLM: What was your first influential singing experience?
LC:  Choirs were a huge part of my upbringing; my family sang together for fun. I grew up thinking every family sang grace at dinner in 4 part harmony!
My Mom taught the children's choir at our church, and my Dad sang in the adult choir. We had a fabulous high school choir, and sang everything from Bach to Brahms to Britten. Our choir director, Bob Sieving, is still around in the Twin Cities today, and is a very fine composer.
PLM: Do you have a singing dream? 
LC: One thing I might add is that sometimes songs come to me in the early morning, just before dawn.
Sometimes they're songs from my past, and sometimes they're new songs. It's almost like they're flying by, and if I don't write them down right away, they just keep flying by (perhaps for someone else to catch)
PLM:  What else would you like us to know?
LC: I'm just grateful for the opportunity to get to know this new community of music makers, and look forward to singing with everyone. Thank you so much for inviting me. In this incredibly crazy time in our world, I believe that group singing, however you can get it to happen, can be a source of healing for everyone.
Laura is leading the "Circling in Song" Retreat at Prairiewoods Retreat Center in central Iowa, Friday, August 11-Sunday, August 13.  Visit Prairiewood's website for more details! 

Here's Laura talking about her recent recording project: 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Highlighting Annie Zijlstra

The lovely Annie Zijlstra
So who is this Annie Zijlstra who will be leading our singing on Thursday evening? 
I had the opportunity to sing with her last summer in Powderhorn Park before she headed to Europa, which confirmed the welcoming and skilled presence she brings to community singing.  I started following her on Instagram (@zestinaferna) and discovered she's a forager, lover of the forest and other wild places, a chocolatier, and handy in many ways.  But who is she?  I decided it was time to ask her some questions...


PLM: Tell us about yourself. 
AZ: I grew up singing in the flat wind-humming prairie lands of northern Iowa. My voice was shaped by a childhood of abundant wide open spaces, a brand of hardiness acquired from the unrelenting sub-zero winters of the great plains, a whole load of family and teachers who never told me not to sing, and years of classical training grounded in an adulthood immersion in a grassroots, living culture of people who sing for the aliving of themselves and all of life in the places they call home. 

PLM: You talk about your role as a natural voice practitioner.  What does that mean to you? 
AZ: Currently based in the Wisconsin Driftless region, I lead two natural voice choirs in the aural tradition: an evening choir for mixed voices and a morning choir for women which welcomes the company of babies and young children. I also lead one-off workshops and community sings in other regions whenever I’m on the road. Play, authenticity, and sneaky spiritualism are at the center of my teaching style and make for a light entrance into the joy and vulnerability group singing can bring to people who haven’t yet used their voices much in this way.

(Here's a clip of Annie leading singing mamas in England earlier this spring)
AZ: In a shifting world fraught with failing systems and widespread cultural trauma, it is necessary to find meaningful ways to connect with one another. To me, singing is one of the most direct and basic ways to access our undeniable interconnectedness and the possibility of collective beauty making. Physically joining our voices into a single sound, be it unison or complex harmony, leaves no room for vague, theoretical concepts of changemaking! Rather, it is a direct action that brings us into immediate connection with each other and the world around us. It is the concept of “peace” made manifest; the idea of “community” brought to life in real time.

PLM: What was your first influential singing experience?
AZ: As someone who has been singing since before she could talk, it is challenging to pin down would be a first influential singing experience. However, what I do remember very clearly is being a child in music class and a teenager in choir after choir and feeling bored senseless by the whole experience! The process of practicing songs with music in front of me for the ends of one day performing it for an audience was totally uninteresting, even within the high caliber choirs I was a part of. Singing as an art really came alive for me when it moved from a practical, performance-centered activity to an experiential, heart-centered way of interacting with those around me. Putting on deranged improvised operas in the car with my mom, making ethereal harmony sounds in a friend’s cistern, and singing emotional Christian rock songs with friends at church camps were the doorway into the rich, experiential, connective singing world I am now a part of. 

PLM: Do you have a singing dream?
AZ: I dream of living in a world in which singing is a part of people’s daily lives in the places where they live. Songs are tools we can use to connect, grieve, create meaning, and make beauty and magic; and they want to be sung! I dream of a time when singing isn’t something that some people do, and others don’t do, but rather something which is part of being living, breathing, soundmaking humans in a living, breathing, soundmaking world. I dream of hundreds of ways for people to gather and make music, of options to suit every kind of want and need. These are not far-off fairytales. In fact, all of this is mostly underway already. All you need to do to be a part of it is find a song and sing it! Who knows who might join in.

Join us on Thursday evening, July 6, 7-8:30 p.m. at the East Side Freedom Library, 1105 Greenbrier St., St. Paul! 

We'll be collecting donations for our travelling song carrier and for the space.  Thank you, East Side Freedom Library! 

 (A final song to entice you to come)